To the west of Ark Citadel, long before Bukhara was conquered by the Arabs, there had emerged a busy city center – Registan square. In the 17th century the area on the approaches to the square used to be occupied by rows of market shops.
One of the caravan roads, connecting Bukhara and Khorezm, led to the square from Dashtak city gates. Thus here the merchants did a brisk trade in cereals, fabrics, weapons, head garments, cattle, fruits, paper and ink. Around the square there clustered caravanserais and rich merchants’ houses. The square also accommodated Dorul Shifo madrassah for training doctors, and a hospital.
These buildings haven’t survived to the present time except for the neighborhood Bolo-Hauz Mosque, which stands across from Ark. It was built in 1721 with money donated by rich Bukhara residents. It was originally an oblong domed mosque with a mikhrab niche indicating the direction of Mecca. In the early 20th century an ayvan terrace was attached to its façade with two tiers of loggias. This ayvan is a real masterpiece of Uzbek traditional applied art. The roof of the ayvan is supported by two rows of elegant pillars. Each pillar consists of several tree trunks joined together with metal rings. The tops of the two central columns, which indicate the entrance to the mosque, are connected with an elegant double arch. The lower teardrop-shaped part of either column resting on a base is decorated with beautiful carvings. Especially impressive are the large stalactite-like chapiters of the columns.
The arched loggias and the ceiling of the ayvan are decorated with splendid paintings. The panels of the coffered ceiling are covered with unique decorative geometric patterns of amazing artistry. The centuries-long Bukhara tradition of mosque decoration undoubtedly had its proper continuation in Bolo-Hauz.
In 1917 the famous Bukhara architect Usto Shirin Muradov built a small minaret by the large pool in front of the mosque. Its decorative brickworks, glazed tile ornamental belts and the top lantern-like rotunda with 8 arched openings remind those of Kalyan Minaret, its elder and larger ‘brother’.
The faithful pray and listen to imams’ sermons not only inside the winter premises of the mosque but also on the ayvan and next to the hauz (pool) which reflects the blue sky.